By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on May 18, 2014
The Detroit Lions had the NFC North title in their grasp in 2013, but a 1-6 finish to end the season leaves 2014 with more questions than answers. New head coach Jim Caldwell along with new coordinators Joe Lombardi (offense) and Teryl Austin (defense) will be looking to get the team back on the right track.
The following is a countdown of all eight Detroit Lions’ 2014 draft picks followed by predictions for their future impact with the team.
A questionable pick to some considering the Lions already had solid tight ends on the roster in Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, the Lions drafted the best tight end in this class in North Carolina's Eric Ebron.
Ebron is set up to be great in Detroit because of his ability to line up anywhere on the field as a pass-catcher who is similar to Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Ebron is a better catcher than blocker.
One of the more versatile linebackers in this year's draft, BYU's Kyle Van Noy is good at a lot of different things, but not particularly great at one.
Van Noy might struggle early on as the Lions try to find a true position for Van Noy, but Van Noy will be a day one starter. Whether as a 4-3 defensive end or a 4-3 outside linebacker, Van Noy will be a quality starter in Detroit, and a Pro Bowl appearance could be in his near future.
A 50-game starter at Arkansas, center Travis Swanson excelled in the best conference in college football in the SEC, and slugged it out against NFL-caliber defensive linemen.
Swanson will be the next starting center in Detroit, even after Dominic Raiola was re-signed to a one-year contract this offseason. Swanson needs to sit and learn behind Raiola and get stronger this year. Swanson will be Detroit's starting center for the 2015-16 season.
One of the biggest needs in this year's draft for the Detroit Lions was at cornerback, but the Lions waited until the fourth round and selected Utah State's Nevin Lawson.
Lawson is undersized and struggled against elite competition last year, especially USC's Marqise Lee, but Lawson does have intriguing potential. Lawson fits best as a slot corner with good quickness and cover skills. Lawson will be best-suited as a nickel or dime back.
An extremely raw defensive end, Bloomsburg's Larry Webster has only played football for just two seasons and is likely to be converted to tight end in the NFL.
With enough development in Detroit, Webster could become an interesting pass rusher, but Webster is too undisciplined and is a major project. Detroit is set at tight end, so Webster will have to make it as a defensive end. The practice squad is where Webster will end up this year.
Already loaded at defensive tackle with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the Lions found a good value pick in the fifth round in Princeton's Caraun Reid.
Reid has tremendous upside, especially as an inside pass rusher with good quickness. Reid has struggled as a run defender, but a year behind Suh and Fairley will help Reid a lot. Reid will provide solid depth on the interior and could start next year if Nick Farley isn't re-signed.
A starter on Notre Dame's 2012 national runner-up team, wide receiver T.J. jones is used to playing big games at a great program.
Jones' production increased in each of his four years with the Fighting Irish, but Jones projects best as a slot receiver. Jones will be playing on Sundays, but with a deep receiving corps in Detroit, Jones will have a hard time making the roster this year. Jones will be on the practice squad to start this year.
After struggling last year with the inconsistent and aging David Akers, the Lions used their final selection in the draft on Boston College kicker Nate Freese.
Freese had a great season last year, connecting on all 20 of his field goal attempts and also was the primary punter. With Akers gone and Sam Martin back as the punter, Freese will beat out George Tavecchio and will be Detroit's starting kicker this season.
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